Iraqi Shiite Militia Establishes Brigade to Liberate Golan Heights (Tasnim-Iran)
Seyed Hashem al-Moussavi, spokesman for Iraq's al-Nujaba movement, a major Shiite resistance group, announced Wednesday in Tehran, "After recent victories (in Syria), we have established the Golan Liberation Brigade. If the Syrian government requests, we are ready to take actions to liberate the Golan" from Israel.
Islamic State Gunmen Disguised as Doctors Attack Afghan Hospital, Kill 30 - Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin (Washington Post)
Islamic State gunmen disguised as doctors and medics drove an ambulance into Kabul's main military hospital on Wednesday, then opened fire, killing at least 30 people and wounding twice as many.
The attackers fought off Afghan forces for hours before they were finally killed.
New York Senate Votes to Defund Campus Groups Seeking Boycott of Israel - David Klepper (AP-U.S. News)
The New York Senate voted 49-11 on Wednesday to withhold state university funding from any student group calling for a boycott of Israel or engaging in hate speech.
Swiss National Council Calls for End to
Government Funding for BDS NGOs - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
Switzerland's National Council - the lower chamber of the legislature - voted 111-78 on Wednesday to approve a bill to stop government funding of organizations that promote boycotts of Israel and spread anti-Semitism and racism.
Spain's Ruling Party Rejects BDS - Lidar Grave-Lazi (Jerusalem Post)
At its 18th Ordinary Congress, the Partido Popular (People's Party), the ruling party in Spain, has approved amendments that explicitly reject the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction campaign, according to the pro-Israel Spanish group ACOM.
The group said the meeting offered "full support for the specific rejection of anti-Semitic activities, and for declaring the illegitimacy of BDS campaigns."
2,100 Shiite Fighters Killed in Iraq, Syria (AFP)
"Some 2,100 martyrs have been martyred so far in Iraq or other places," Mohammad Ali Shahidi, head of Iran's Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, told IRNA news agency on Tuesday.
The figure includes volunteer fighters sent from Iran who were recruited from Shiite communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Tourism to Israel in February Hits Record High (Israel Ministry of Tourism-IMRA)
In February 2017, 234,000 tourists arrived in Israel, the highest ever for the month and a 22% increase over February 2016.
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- Israeli Experts: Iran and North Korea Working on Nuclear Warheads - Yochanan Visser
Iran is circumventing the restrictions on its nuclear program by collaborating with North Korea on missile development and modifying missiles for nuclear weapons, according to Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek and Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. The two countries also work together on programs meant to upgrade gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
"Iran's Shahab-3 missile is a variant of North Korea's Nodong-1. The warhead on the Shahab-3 was redesigned to carry a nuclear warhead in the mid-2000s by Kamran Daneshjoo, a top Iranian scientist," they wrote. The Iranian nuclear expert succeeded to "miniaturize a nuclear warhead to match the weight and dimensional specifications of the Shahab-3." Thereafter, Iran carried out "benchmark tests in Parchin," the secret military site where Iran is suspected to have carried out work on detonators for nuclear warheads.
Hundreds of Iranian scientists visited North Korea to participate in nuclear-related tests or tests with ballistic missiles, while North Korean nuclear experts worked in Iran on ballistic missile-related work and assisted the Iranians with developing their nuclear program.
See also Iran Is Progressing towards Nuclear Weapons via North Korea - Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek and Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham
The Iran nuclear deal placed almost no limits on the enhancement of Tehran's military nuclear program outside Iran. A delegation of Iranian nuclear experts headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, director of the Iranian nuclear weapons project, was present at the third North Korean nuclear test in February 2013.
Syria served as another important platform for Iran - until the destruction by Israel of the plutonium-based nuclear reactor that had been constructed in Syria by North Korea, a project heavily financed by Tehran.
The current Iranian-North Korean interface, which appears to be fully active, serves as a productive substitute for the Iranian activities prohibited by the nuclear deal and enables Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The writers served as senior Israeli intelligence analysts.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- U.S. Envoy at UN Makes Bid for Reviving Israeli-Palestinian Talks
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday discussed reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations during her first meeting with Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour. Haley tweeted after the talks that the Palestinians should "meet with Israel in direct negotiations rather than looking to the UN to deliver results that can only be achieved through the two parties." (AFP)
- U.S. Marines Arrive in Syria to Fire Artillery at Islamic State in Raqqa - Dan Lamothe and Thomas Gibbons-Neff
U.S. Marines have deployed in Syria to set up an artillery battery to deliver fire support for U.S.-backed local forces who are preparing an assault on the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa. Additional infantrymen from the unit will provide security. (Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Prime Minister Netanyahu Meets with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem on Wednesday with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Johnson said, "Our government in the UK, Theresa May and I and all our government are, as you know, firm, strong supporters, rock-like supporters of Israel. And what we want is to see an Israel that is at peace with its neighbors....Israel has a, first and foremost, an absolute right to live in security and the people of Israel deserve to be safe from terrorism. That's our absolute priority and we work with you, as you know, in all kinds of ways to ensure the stability of the entire region. And of course, we must also try to remove obstacles to peace and progress, such as the settlements."
Prime Minister Netanyahu replied: "It's evident that we agree on most things, but not on all things....The reason we haven't had peace for a hundred years is not the settlements, but the persistent refusal to recognize a nation-state for the Jewish people in any boundary. I think if you want to solve a problem, go to the core of the problem, and that is something I look forward to discussing with you further."
(Prime Minister's Office)
- Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman Tells U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson: Settlements Not an Impediment to Peace - Gili Cohen
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Israeli settlements are not an impediment to peace during a meeting in Washington on Wednesday. Lieberman noted that "even the uprooting of 21 blooming towns in Gaza did not lead to peace but rather to rocket fire at Israel."
Lieberman also asked Tillerson to review U.S. policy toward the UN Human Rights Council and UNRWA, saying these organizations "are not filling their intended goals but rather the Human Rights Council is busy slandering Israel and attempting to harm it by distorting reality." (Ha'aretz)
- Report: Iran Spends Billions on Terror and Weapons in Syria - Rowan Scarborough
Iran has spent up to $100 billion in the past five years financing operations in Syria, according to the new e-book Iran: The Rise of the Revolutionary Guards' Financial Empire, released Wednesday by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the country's largest internal dissident group. The book estimates that Iran has paid nearly $100 million a year in salaries to mercenaries sent to Syria under the direction of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds force.
At the same time, the Iranian regime is undertaking the largest arms buildup in its history. The book estimates that Iran has spent $11 billion alone on ICBMs from North Korea.
Military spending has gone from $3 billion annually in 2008 to $13 billion in 2015. Tehran spends another $3.4 billion annually on internal security and $1.4 billion annually on the "export of fundamentalism."
The book is a warning to the West that investments in Iran will not enliven the private sector but will increase the holdings of the ayatollah and the IRGC. "The book is intended to show that behind the veneer of the official banks and seemingly benign companies lies a web of institutions controlled by the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and his ideological terrorist arm, the Revolutionary Guard Corps," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the dissident group's Washington office.
- No Rushing the Peace Process - Clifford D. May
Count me among those who see a "two-state solution" to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as unlikely anytime soon no matter how energetic, determined and skillful the diplomacy of the Trump administration turns out to be. The Middle East has become bloodier over recent years. Given this reality, Israeli leaders from Labor to Likud are convinced that the withdrawal of their military forces from the West Bank would leave a vacuum - and that jihadis would fill it.
Consider the precedents. In 2005, every Israeli soldier and settler was pulled out of Gaza. Within two years, Hamas had taken control and begun launching missiles at Israeli villages and cities. A series of small wars followed, as has the incessant digging of terrorist tunnels into Israel. Five years earlier, the Israelis withdrew from southern Lebanon. That strengthened Hizbullah, Iran's proxy, with whom other wars had to be fought.
In 1982, Israelis handed the Sinai Peninsula over to Egypt. Today, a branch of the Islamic State wages an insurgency there. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The U.S. Should Move Its East Jerusalem "Embassy" to Ramallah - David Bernstein (Washington Post)
- American policy with regard to Jerusalem is incoherent. On the one hand, U.S. policy has long favored a negotiated settlement between Israel and its adversaries based in some way on the 1967 armistice lines, which places west Jerusalem firmly in Israeli hands.
- On the other hand, the U.S. government refuses to officially recognize that any part of Jerusalem is part of Israel. As a result, American citizens born in west Jerusalem must register their country of birth as "Jerusalem," not Israel. Moreover, the U.S. government keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv rather than in west Jerusalem, the seat of Israeli government.
- Nevertheless, the U.S. government maintains a consulate in east Jerusalem that serves the Arab residents of east Jerusalem and the West Bank. The consulate's own website notes that "the Consulate General has served as the de facto representative of the United States government to the Palestinian Authority."
- This raises an obvious question: If the U.S. government refuses to place its Israel embassy in west Jerusalem, what possible rationale could there be for its de facto Palestinian embassy to be in east Jerusalem?
- Informing the Palestinian Authority that the U.S. consulate is moving to Ramallah might even make the P.A. rethink whether it really wants to oppose having the U.S. Embassy relocate to west Jerusalem.
The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law.
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